These are very tender times. These are very difficult times. Indeed, this is unknown territory for each and every one of us, especially for families like yours who were faced with the unthinkable loss of a loved one during this unique and scary time.
With travel severely curtailed and nearly all gatherings restricted, grief does not wait and there is no doubt that in most cases it has even become more magnified.
This year and this time of year is even more difficult for anyone who has experienced a loss, but even more challenging when asked to remain separated from family and friends.
Thus, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, we are in our own homes sitting apart. Yet we are united in our wish to remember together those special people in our lives we have lost yet will always love.
And so this evening, our service of remembrance and hope has many purposes – to remember loved ones, to have our losses recognized, to find that in our journey of bereavement we are not alone, and lastly to explore how it is that we can generate and/or maintain hope in our lives.
Song – Bridge Over Troubled Water, By Paul Simon, Performed by Matt Chittick
A New Year with Grief
Often times, memorial services are focused on Christmas and the difficulty we have manoeuvring through it with aloneness and grief as constant companions.
Yet, what about New Years? For some, it too can be just as hard. It is supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh start. A time to renew ourselves. . . . .
Yet facing a New Year while grieving can make things feel just a bit more complicated (grief seems to have that effect on just about everything and everyone).
When we are grieving, it is hard enough to live each day as it comes. And it can be even more daunting to face a whole new year stretching out before us. For many, it is one more reminder that they won’t be seeing their loved one ever again. Others may be afraid of what the new year might bring. We could worry whether or not we can handle any more challenges. We may very well say to ourselves, “I used to be so busy. I used to feel so needed, so useful. Now it seems there’s nothing but empty space and empty time.”
Indeed, our current experience of emptiness and loneliness may make us reluctant to face a new year. If the new year lies before you in darkness – filled with not knowing, continued hurt, doubt – we wish to give you a beacon of light, of hope, by which to brighten your way, to accompany you on your way.
Hopefully like a fresh blanket of snow – filled with anticipation, continuing wonder and awe – we aid you in defining what you are feeling and experiencing and go onto help you face the New Year by encouraging you to help others.
So, may you take hold of the light we offer and go from the darkness of the year gone past into the new year. May you be confident in making a fresh start, throwing out the old and making room for a new chance and year.
Thank you for joining us this evening. As Helen Keller once wrote, “We have to go through the door to get on the other side.“ So let’s pull ourselves to our fullest height and move, perhaps unsteadily, into the future.
We will start with a very familiar reading that helps to put things and events into perspective, whether it is heard as a recitation or a song by The Byrds.
Reading – Ecclesiastes 3, Read by Andy Brandsma
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw-away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Life, Thus Grief, Is A Journey, A Long Path Homeward
Reading – Grief is a Journey, By Anne Peterson
Grief is a very long journey,
a journey you take on your own.
And no one can know
all the sorrow you feel,
for it is your sorrow alone.
Grief is an awful intruder,
it comes and it stays
night and day.
And no one can look
at the way that you grieve,
and then tell you,
“No, this is the way.”
Therese Rando, a noted grief therapist and author, describes grieving as a learning process. Each new challenge, like doing the taxes, fixing things, and going into a new year, becomes a fresh occasion to accept the absence of your loved one and find new ways to cope, even if new challenges bring fresh pain.
As you courageously work through your grief over time, you eventually will find the strength to look to the new year with interest and wonder about what it might hold.
Reading – By Ann Thorpe, Read by Bonnie Gallinger
I have to believe that you still exist Somewhere
That you still watch me Sometimes
That you still love me Somehow.
I have to believe that life has meaning Somehow
That I am useful here Sometimes
That I make small differences Somewhere.
I have to believe that I need to stay here for Sometime
That all this teaches me Something
So that I can meet you again Somewhere.
Lucy Hone offers three statements regarding resiliency, a sturdy, durable stance to meet all that you are facing.
1) Life is hard. Don’t deny it. Silver linings are nice to find, but they don’t make hard things, not hard.
2) Hunt for the good. Especially when times are hard, it is critical to try to find things that are positive.
3) You can grieve for things lost and [also] live fully, simultaneously. That is, we are all capable of holding the memories of joyous occasions alongside the sadness of losing a loved one.
After a difficult year, we hope these ideas give you an opportunity to reflect, make a few alterations, and remember with thanksgiving the people we hold dear, at New Years and always.
Here are some New Year’s tips to help you face the new year:
·Begin by getting needed rest. If you’re still exhausted from caregiving or from acute grieving, focus on physical recovery. Considering talking with your doctor about how to rebuild yourself physically.
·Give yourself a mental rest. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations about yourself, and soothe yourself with music, prayer, uplifting literature, tears and laughter.
·Pay attention to hope and desire. Find small practical ways to give yourself new pleasure.
·Attend a support group or talk with friends and family members who can list and share memories.
·Seek spiritual support.
·Find courage to live into the future by living in the present, one day at a time. Do the best you can to care for yourself and others today.
This New Year
1 Year – 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 seconds. Look at all the changes. Look at all things left behind. Look at all the new things and people and places encountered.
For the Chinese, New Year’s Eve is the time to throw away old stuff; dented pots, chipped bowls, worn-out clothes, dismembered toys, bad habits. . . . .
And so at this time of year, we often take time for reflection and resolution-making. We may try to make room for the new by throwing out some of the old.
And we do this perhaps by seeking forgiveness for things we have done or left undone. By seeking healing for hurts we have received. We may resolve to be better, or at least to do differently in the coming year. We may resolve to change the way we think, or at least to act differently in the coming year.
Indeed, New Year’s Eve – The time to throw away old stuff, old baggage. The time to bring in the new. Here are a few more tips for you!
By having time-honoured rituals we are helped to leave the unchangeable past behind and to make room for the new. One such ritual is to make New Year’s resolutions. Here are 8 resolutions for those of us who are grieving.
·Go easy on yourself
·Spend time with people you like being around
·Engage in one hobby or activity that makes you feel good: …
·Be honest about how you feel
·Speak your loved one’s name
·Support someone else
·Plan opportunities for remembrance
·Seek additional grief support
Hope in the New Year
Inbal Kashtan, a cancer survivor writes,
Slowly, I have learned to let myself hope. I let myself hope for things that are likely, and even for things that are unlikely. Just a few days ago, I got some bad news again. Hopes dashed—yes. But no humiliation. It’s odd to remember that I used to feel humiliated about hoping—now I find such beauty in hope, such strength. So we—my family, our community—are grieving together, pouring out our love to one another, and yes, hoping together. Along with others, I have my son to thank for this gift of hope.
The best we can do is to have hope and to live out the rest of our lives with determination, resilience, gratitude and a desire to help others.
Dr. Carolyn Boulos, a Sunnybrook psychiatrist offers this insight for our time of COVID and grief, “Giving gratitude also helps individuals feel better and makes this difficult time more bearable as we can see hope at the end of the tunnel.” She adds, “This is a unique time in which we can slow down, reflect, listen, and show gratitude towards one another.”
The poem, “The Dash” puts this into perfect, 20-20 vision.
Reading- The Dash, By Linda Ellis, Read by Bonnie Gallinger
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
Live Your Dash!
Song – What a Wonderful World, By Thiele & Weiss, Performed by Matt Chittick
You are not asked to forget. Sadness has to be tinged with gratitude for the life that has shaped all of you, for the hands that helped you, the voice that inspired you, and the presence that enriched your lives.
May we all go back into the world, glad that we have loved, free to mourn those we have lost, free to hold each other in our human frailty, and empowered to live life to the fullest.
May the blessing of tears and laughter be ours.
The company of friends and family be ours.
May the hope of budding trees and sunlight be ours.
The wonder of the twinkling stars be ours.
May the promise of sunrise and healing be ours.
Ours today and everyday.
Let us part now, into life, love and peace.